The Olympic Dream.
Perhaps the opportunity to compete at the highest level of sport would not be as sought-after and revered were it not for the inherent scarcity of opportunities to achieve it. This year, only eight women and six men were able to represent the United States in cross-country skiing in Zhangjiakou, down from a total of twenty – 11 women, 9 men – who were selected for PyeongChang in 2018.
Among those who came up just shy was 30-year-old Rosie Frankowski, who has spent the last eight years training with APU under head coach Erik Flora. Frankowski is a 2018 Olympian and 2019 World Championship competitor, finishing inside the top-30 in both places – 21st in the 30 k classic in Korea and 24th in the 15 k skiathlon in Seefeld.
After strong early season results that included two wins and three third place finishes in early season SuperTours, Frankowski lined up in Soldier Hollow for a two-week stretch of racing that felt like it was for all the marbles. As many women had already met the objective criteria for team selection via results on the World Cup, it was only the final few spots that remained open for domestic racers; in the hungry pool all fighting for these spots via some combination of U.S. Nationals, Sun Valley SuperTour, and Tour de Ski results were Frankowski, Caitlin Patterson, Alayna Sonnesyn, Katharine Ogden, Novie McCabe, and Sophia Laukli.
As Frankowski describes in this episode, her opening races – the freestyle sprint and the 20-kilometer mass start skate – of U.S. Nationals went remarkably well; despite being known as a distance specialist, she won the sprint qualifier and finished sixth in the final, then won the race for second place in the 20 k skate, behind Rosie Brennan who had dropped the field from the start. From there, Frankowski faced a series of challenges – slick skis and variable klister conditions in the 10 k classic, a fall in the classic sprint, and a sublexed shoulder in the opening race in Sun Valley.
The official team nominations for the 2022 Beijing Olympics were released the following week, and Frankowski was named as the second alternate for the women’s team. Five months later, Frankowski finds herself at a transition point in her career. It’s not a cut and dry retirement as she has earned Period I starts on the World Cup and has other race objectives next winter, but it’s a shift in focus as she and her partner prepare to relocate from Anchorage, AK to Durango, CO.
In this conversation, Frankowski shares the highlights and challenges of the 2021-22 race season, and provides invaluable insights into the experience of spending her career as a “bubble athlete”, fighting for international race opportunities and team selection, while juggling the financial realities of supporting her professional ski racing career. She reflects on her time with APU, and discusses defining success when surrounded by “more-accomplished” teammates, and how she expects the ratio of mountain running to ski-specific training to shift after this transition.
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Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646